ALL Psychologists are NOT equipped to handle clients with childhood trauma. Period. It takes a wise, awakened individual with the cultivated ability to 1) bear witness to a client’s inner world and 2) gracefully navigate back out, leaving the client with more than they went in with. Skill, deep INNER excavation. But more importantly, the awareness of being in WAY over your head (beyond your supports) as a therapist/counselor.
A variety of scenarios keep psychologists, counselors, social workers from doing the best they are able, for this vulnerable population. As a client, myself, I remember the early days of my healing. I was just happy to have someone listen. A human witness to my sadness and anger. All psychologists are created equal, right? LOL.
Are there specific sexual abuse training modules for professionals in the counseling gig? Even continuing education classes for veteran professionals? I’d like to teach…“How to build a self” “Making sense of body memories”, “Dealing with frozen”, “How my darkness impacts my clients” – hey, just for starters – Anything I can do to assist them in wreckognizing their own process.
No cleaning and your home will be really dirty for your guests. How bout a food/drink container? Would you serve them from a dirty vessel? No, you’d make sure it was washed and scrubbed, the lighting in the room was adequate, not too cool or hot and that they felt supported and safe on the furniture. When in the helping world, overlooking your own energetic invitation to healing is the issue. I don’t think any provider woke up this morning thinking – who can I fuck up today? Who’s trauma can I add too? Who can I re-victimize this afternoon?
Sound harsh? I am VERY hard on this profession. Having had some shocking experiences as client, I hope for better for humanity. I know the desperate search for relief. Anxiety, terror, depression, eating disorder, strange body symptoms, etc.. just to be met with blame, bizarre ideas, dismissal, odd reactions, endless scripts of ridiculous meds, feeling minimized as you bear your soul… The healing road is not without its potholes, sunday drivers, construction sites and engine failure. For sure.
My first therapist was a sweet middle-aged woman. I was bursting at the seams with my new realization of my abuse and I know a bit unusual, but I wanted everyone to know. First meeting. She seemed like a good enough listener. My expectations were low as I was just looking for some validation. After the 4th session, she thought it might be a good idea to inform me about her speciality…counselor to the abusers, the rapists, torturers, sexual deviants. Nice. Wait, what? But my starved – for someone to listen – self rationalized that SHE was the professional, after all, I’m a basket case, why would my opinion count here?
She continued, adding that they didn’t mean it and were usually good people. AYFKM? Floored, I felt powerless to question or protest or talk about how offended I was by her lack of judgement. Defending the behavior that has ruined my childhood… What’s next? Maybe I should just pity my abusers because they probably didn’t MEAN IT? Ewe WTF So the young me just smiled and felt lucky to have such a professional therapist. Next session we met in her new office. Much nicer. Maybe a new start. We could start over and I could pretend. Pretend she was a good therapist.
Seated next to the window next to hanging and tallish plants, the sun streamed through the window onto her. We began. I felt an incredible emotional pressure coming forth. A torrent mix of anger and sadness surfacing. Years of tears, streaming. She was nodding and smiling, which I barely noticed, given how distraught I was. With a lap full of tissues, I looked up to see her reaction to what I was sharing and she was asleep. Head sagged down towards her chest and all. Shot through the heart and you’re to blame, you give therapists a bad name.Purging deepest secrets, finding my voice, in front of a witness and the fucker is asleep. Bored, disinterested, great. Never returned. Even my vulnerable, unassuming, naive, young self knew that she was a couple of sandwiches shy of a picnic. Purposefully unconschushed? Checked out? No words. Good thing I wasn’t suicidal.
This is serious business. Again, If. You. Do. Not. Know. What. You. Are. Doing – Please, please do not gear your services towards the childhood trauma crowd. This hurts, deeply. At this rate, I might as well pay my neighbor, or my son’s busdriver or the nice lady at the deli counter – to be my therapist. .
I wish this were the extent of my pho-therapist encounters…not so much. My second therapist was a male, young guy, very professional. Little bowtie. Precious. Came with great recommendation. Yes! Finally, he’ll help. Can’t wait. First session, nice office, spacious. PROMISING. We began discussing why I was there. I told him what my childhood was like. 15 minutes in, he interrupts me, “Why aren’t you crying?” “What you’re telling me is very sad, yet you do not cry” We talked a little more and then he asked again. This went on 2 more times.
Today I might say – Listen, PAL…if I was in touch with my f-ing emotions, I probably would not need to be sitting with your critical ass! But like a good little soldier, again, I say nothing, he’s the professional. So bought and paid for – I am so abnormal and wrong, I can’t even cry when I’m supposed to. Hmmmmm, yes, where DID I put all that sadness anyway?…Great, add that to the list of my dysfunction. Also, how much of what I said was heard as he was super focused on my dry eyes.
Second session (cause I’m young, impressionable, an idiot, desperate, feel like I’m REALLY A LOSER cause I can’t even cry like everyone else can, nice). Here, on the plaid couch. Cold words swirly twirling, “Why don’t you cry” in my head, they are fighting. I reached down and pinched the shit out of my inner thigh, so very hard that it made me cry. A little bloody, bruised, Ahhhhh, success – now he will be satisfied and we can move on from that -less than- bullshit. No joke, I was crying and when I went in. He was pleased. Impressed. Good-night. Never returned.
So, getting paid to make people feel bad/wrong, less than, insane. My pinch myself move was my FU. My I’ll show you – even if it means I have to show my crazy. Skills. Get some. And throw in some compassion too. For the human condition. My walking-mess self, why on earth would someone, a professional yet, highlight just my resistance to deep emotional expression, frozen-ness and disassociation without telling me that these ARE COMPLETELY NORMAL SIDE EFFECTS OF BEING TRAUMATIZED??? Skills sir, knowledge, the self-awareness, the scare-with-all to feel the terror rise in you (as therapist) rendering you useless and even retraumatizing your client. This was not a safe place for me. Sweet Jesus, if I cried too much would that have been a prob too?
A mystery as to why I kept going, kept looking for a terrorist, I mean therapist. It didn’t seem as though anyone could actually help me. But I didn’t give up. I couldn’t give up on myself. I felt so hyper-aware, so fragile, emotional, angry, anxious and in dissociation most of the time. Try some medicine, I heard. My well meaning gyno, set me up with a Dr. Ruth Westheimer type of little Austrian Psychiatrist. Barely visible over her enormous desk and feet on a milk crate underneath. She sounded like a female Arnold Schwarzenegger. LOL She proceeded to tell me I had a mood disorder. Be Careerful. Docs love to pin crazy diagnoses on the many faces of trauma. Like 24 years of pent up trauma aint gunna look cray cray when the cage is cracked open? Jesus, I think one would fit into at least 7 different psychological disorders. Better off pulling that shit out of a hat. Don’t believe the garbage, find someone who tells you how WELL you are – despite how they tried to ruin you. MMMMMMMM, feel better already.
She added that I should take this drug – name escapes me, maybe topomax? … is used with epileptic patients to decrease the activity between the brain hemispheres – insert gasp – like a young, compliant, obedient woman, I took the shit.Enter – “Well, they’re the professionals” This vile substance stole my processing. No sustained attention, comprehension – shot. She switched me to something that kept me up for 4 nights straight (Celexa?) If i didn’t feel like dying before, well now that’s a consideration. I told her I wouldn’t be coming back to her again. Like she was my grandmother and I just told her that her cookies sucked. She retaliated with some mumbled comment about how hellish Menopause was going to be for me (completely unprompted since I was 32 at the time) and I might have a breakdown! God’s honest truth.
Ok, so now I’m 53, no breakdown (I think haha) and no menopause yet… she’s prob not alive today, so damn I can’t go visit her and have a chat. LOL Education people, education. Skills. Compassion. Self awareness. Self work.
I had every reason to shut up and stop searching for validation, a better life and normalcy. I surely was not going to let my abusers “win” My spirit would not allow that to happen. A full life was waiting for me, I HAD to put in the work. Surprisingly, I still had hope, faith in humanity that kept me asking around for therapists and physicians who claimed to be “good with trauma survivors”… Little did I know, I was about to meet a brand new breed of CRAZies. The ill and triggered trying to therapize the ill and triggered – not a good scenario. To be continued…